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London Shifts into Bike-Share Gear
A new bike share system in London adds momentum to a two-wheel revolution in cities around the world. Image via

A new bike share system in London adds momentum to a two-wheel revolution in cities around the world. Image via

Just after officially opening two of twelve planned “Barclay’s Cycle Superhighways,” London is now just days away from launching its new bike share system. The system, called Barclay’s Cycle Hire (at this point, the sponsor has become obvious, right?), will share the blue color theme with the city’s cycle superhighways.

Cyclists can pay £1 a day, £5 for seven days or £45 a year, which will give them access to a bike for free for up to half an hour; after that the fees start rising. The program has cost about £140 million for the first five years, with £25 million coming from Barclay’s Bank.

The bike share program forms part of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s declared “cycling revolution”; Johnson is promoting a 400 percent increase in cycling in London between 2000 and 2025.

London will hope for the same success as Paris’ bike share, Vélib,  where there are more than 20,000 bikes and bicycle mode share has doubled since the program launched in 2007.

London is starting out with 6,000 bikes at 400 docking stations. Johnson’s Transport Advisor, Kulveer Ranger, says that while the system will definitely experience some “teething problems,” the city hopes that it will grow to be the “best cycle hire system in the world.”

London’s bikes are BIXI bikes, modeled after Montreal’s public bike share system.  They are built to withstand 60,000 miles of London streets over the course of their 15-year lifetime, rolling 365 days a year through rain, sleet, and snow. BIXI has overtaken previous leaders in the bikeshare business — ad-based giants like ClearChannel and JC Decaux — by managing its systems locally and responsibly, and focusing on cyclists and sustainability, rather than ad space. D.C. is also using BIXI for its new Capital Bikeshare program, and Boston has plans for a BIXI bike share, as well.

Transport for London’s (TfL) bike share page already allows users to sign up for 24-hour, seven day, or year long memberships, and provides an interactive map with station locations and a “cycle journey planner” for cyclists wondering how to reach their destination by bike.

Station density appears high around the center of the city — which is crucial for the success of bike share systems, since people often want to borrow a bike for a short neighborhood commute, and many people want to borrow bikes in the same central zone; if bike stations aren’t clustered there, the bikes run out.

To read more about the world’s two-wheel revolution — and how it’s changing U.S. cities — check out last month’s post on bike share systems.

And watch this nifty video about how London’s system will work:

TFL Cycle Hire Scheme – How It Works from Mummu on Vimeo.

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  • Thanks for your comments, Rick. Another important consideration for London is to make sure to provide the right cycling infrastructure – there’s no point in providing lots of bikes without having safe, complete, and (preferably) segregated bike lanes.

  • 140 million seems a bit expensive for 6.000 bikes, 23.333 per bike.

    For 140 million you can buy 300.00 decent bikes and give them for free to people. Than you will really promote cycling.

    Greetings from Holland.

    Rick Schasfoort

  • こちらのことですね。楽しみです! @twilightwalk: @navinko ロンドンでも6000台、400基地規模の公共レンタサイクルが始まったそうですね。東京も続け!

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  • @hagebouz

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • London Shifts into Bike-Share Gear

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  • Hey Aileen,
    That’s a really great idea. For now, based on information on TfL’s website, it looks like the Cycle Hire isn’t going to be integrated into the Oyster Card. But I’m going to try to find out more about this, because it definitely sounds like it would be a great way to promote the system and make it much more convenient!
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Aileen Carrigan

    Exciting news for bike sharing!

    Since Barclays is the sponsor of TfL’s Oyster Card, does this mean there will be fare integration between London’s transit system and the new public bike system?

    Londoners could potentially have a 4-in-1 smart card: Oyster Card, Cycle Hire card, credit card and contactless payment card. Now that’s convenience!

  • #London Shifts into #Bike Share Gear #mobility

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